Defining Happiness is the First Step to Increasing Your Daily Joy
What makes us happy varies for each individual, so defining happiness is personal, too. However, psychologists commonly use several useful terms when discussing “subjective well-being”. Understanding these categories of things that make us happy can give us better ideas on how to improve our life outlook and mood. Therefore, I’ll discuss these kinds of happiness, as well as proven methods you can use to increase your enjoyment each day.
What does happiness mean?
We have a tricky time defining happiness because it is not just a single word or concept. It is a mental state that spans a wide range of positive emotions, from simple contentment to intense elation. It is often characterized by feelings of immediate joy and long-term fulfillment. “Subjective well-being” usually refers to an individual’s overall personal feelings about life in the present. Through this lens, two key ingredients of happiness are:
We all experience negative emotions at some time or another. But positive moods -or at least opportunities for them- should be at least as prevalent. In general, happiness is linked to having more positive feelings than negative ones. And remember: you can increase your overall happiness by actively choosing to experience the good in situations over the bad.
This relates to how satisfied you feel about various aspects of your life. This includes such areas as relationships, work, achievements, and other things that you consider important.
Types of Happiness
The above ingredients of subjective well-being can be used to describe the two standardly recognized types of happiness:
Simply put, hedonic happiness derives from pleasure. It is most often associated to living in -and enjoying- the present moment. While hedonism is often linked with vices like drugs and sex, it truly has to do with doing whatever feels good. This can very much include acts of self-care; like enjoying exercise, bathing, or even doing nothing.
Eudaimonic happiness comes from seeking virtue and meaning. Rather than the present moment, eudaimonism more closely relates to long-term goals, value, and purpose. This is the satisfaction that comes with fulfilling responsibilities, investing in/for yourself, caring for the welfare of other people, and living up to personal ideals.
Based on the above, overall happiness really is a blend of emotions that are more positive than negative. And these come from enjoying immediate pleasures and victories, as well as finding fulfillment in broader goals and life meaning.
What Causes Unhappy Thoughts?
As noted, we all experience negative emotions. But where do these negative feelings come from? Certainly, there are many various reasons we may have unhappy thoughts, but many can be tied to three common causes. Being aware of them can help you avoid these thought patterns, and increase your overall happiness.
Fear of the Future
Fear of the unknown is natural. Evolution taught us to be cautious about what’s in that dark cave or prowling between the trees. Our prefrontal cortex gave us the ability to anticipate possible dangers so that we could plan to overcome them. Unfortunately, this brilliant feature may also lead us to “predict” future troubles that may never arise. Left unchecked, this feeling may even evolve into something worse: self-doubt. “What will happen if I fail that test?”, “What if they reject me?”, and “What if they don’t like my presentation?” These are all examples of results you cannot predict.
Try not to waste time or energy on thinking about things that have not yet happened. Sure, you could put some thought into upcoming possibilities; but only so you’re not caught completely off-guard. Understand and accept that you’ll only be able to handle ‘it’ whenever ‘it’ occurs. And have confidence in your ability to do so. Also note that there is a good chance things will turn out great! In which case, there was no reason to needlessly worry.
Regrets About the Past
Many of our pasts include things we’re not proud of. This could be a mistake at school or work, or an embarrassment among your friends. Or perhaps a failure to do something, like a missed opportunity. Shame or regret about past events can continue to bring negative thoughts into your mind. You can avoid this by remembering that nobody is perfect, and nobody expects you to be. In fact, your failures and imperfections make you unique and beautiful. Further, our past mistakes and failures have inevitably made us who we are today. If we didn’t do them then, we wouldn’t know ‘not’ to do them today. So use these as learning points so that you’ll be ready to capitalize on your next chance.
Anxiety in the Present
Not only are we worrying about the future and dwelling in the past, but we may also be overwhelmed by what’s happening around us currently. You should understand that this is an extension of the fear mentioned above. Instead of letting these thoughts drag you down, take action. Do things you can be proud of now and happy about in the future. Are you anxious about moving? Make your packing checklists, make arrangements with the movers, go get all the boxes you’ll need. Are you looking for a new job? Polish your resume, practice your introduction, iron an outfit or two. By being pragmatic and productive, you eliminate the time to worry. Additionally, you set yourself up for success and future happiness. Win-win!
What Else Impacts Emotions?
Something important to keep in mind is that thoughts and emotions can be influenced by outside physical factors, too. Common detractors of happiness are illness, hunger, lack of sleep, and stress. All of these often affect the body’s energy stores and chemical balances, which in turn, affect your emotions.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most associated with pleasure. It is released whenever your brain anticipates a reward. Once you’ve associated a certain activity with pleasure, merely looking forward to it will likely raise dopamine levels. Whether it’s sex, a certain food, shopping or whatever else you enjoy… any time you anticipate something you like, your brain receives a ‘hit’ of it. This makes us happy and motivates us to do that thing.
Serotonin is another “feel good” neurotransmitter. It plays a key role many body functions, too. However, for this conversation we’re interested in the fact that it stabilizes our mood, and promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. Additionally, it can help regulate and improve sleep. But unlike dopamine, it is released after the pleasurable experience.
Cortisol is a naturally-occurring steroid hormone that plays many roles within the body, including metabolism and immunity response. However, it is often referred to as the “stress hormone” due to its involvement to the stress response. Of note is the fact that high levels of cortisol have been linked to anxiety and depression.
In very simple terms, we can positively influence our happiness by increasing our levels of dopamine and serotonin, and by decreasing our levels of cortisol.
Improve Your Emotional State with New Mood
It may sound like a miracle, but you can make huge strides to improve your mood with one simple supplement. The scientists at Onnit specially formulated New Mood to assist with daily mood, promote calm, and fight stress. Its natural ingredients are combined specifically to support serotonin production; however, they can help with more than just that.
- 5-HTP is the direct precursor and metabolic intermediate of serotonin, thus it is one of the best nutrients to optimize the body’s natural supply of serotonin.
- Vitamin B-3 (Niacin) plays a crucial role in the synthesis of serotonin.
- Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine) aids in the manufacturing of amino acids and neurotransmitters, including serotonin.
- L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which is a building block for 5-HTP. Furthermore, tryptophan is also able to convert to melatonin, which aids sleep.
- Magnesium is needed to support your heart and nervous system health, and maintaining blood pressure levels. It also supports a sense of muscular and physical calm, so is commonly used to combat occasional stress and restlessness.
High cortisol levels can be caused by stress and also by lack of sleep. Per the ingredients above, New Mood actually fights this depression-related hormone on two fronts. Further, by supplying all the essential building blocks of serotonin, this capsule leaves your body well-equipped to increase levels of the mood-improving neurotransmitter.
More Ways to Improve Your Happiness
These supplements can make a huge difference in your mood and your sleep, and thus to your happiness. However, there are plenty of other actions you can take to help improve your joy and overall outlook. Here are common happiness boosters that I have found to be incredibly useful.
A Small Dose of Reality
Notably, you can’t be happy all the time. Despite your best efforts to control your emotions and mood, and to “see the good” in any situation, there will be trying moments. But this isn’t a bad thing. Recent research suggests that an even-keeled mood is more psychologically healthy than a mood in which you achieve great heights of happiness regularly. So accept that there will be some “downs” along your journey, but that the “ups” will prevail.
Harvard research shows that people who are happiest in life are those who maintain intimate friendships and marriages into old age. Regardless of demographic, they are more satisfied with the life they’ve lived, happier on a daily basis, and in better health, too!
Physical activity induces the release of serotonin and endorphins. So even if the workout is a grind, you are sure to feel better afterward. Get the sweat -and Serotonin- flowing with our workout routines.
Get Good Sleep
The importance of sleep to our health and mood cannot be overstated. Count down to bed with this 3-2-1 rule… Three hours before bedtime: stop eating. Two hours before bedtime: stop working. One hour before bedtime: turn off the screens (such as TV and smartphone). Close those blackout curtains and tuck in for a full 8 hours if you can. Doctors also recommend setting your thermostat between 60-67 degrees for optimal sleep. Countless studies show that melatonin supplements assist the body’s natural desire to rest. Using one like the melatonin spray from Onnit can help your body enjoy a more restful sleep experience.
Reduce your cortisol levels by controlling the stress in your life. Follow Hana in the video above for a daily yoga and meditation routine. Enjoy the simple comforts, including the imperfections in life, and practice gratitude.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Make It Personal
I hope you find all the information above to be useful in helping you increase your happiness. But there is one last thing… Remember that defining happiness is personal. People’s ambitions and what makes them happy are as varied as there are, well, people. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to find happiness while pursuing somebody else’s goal. And don’t listen if anybody says that your goals or definition of happiness is wrong. Use the tips I’ve given if they help, but most importantly, follow your dreams. Because there is nothing happier nor more fulfilling than building the life you want.
We want you to live a long and healthy life, but a happy one, too. If you have any questions about the above -or any tips you’d like to share- please drop a note in the comments section below. Have a great day; we’re rooting for you!
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